We slept in the next morning as we had a very short sail across The Flat, a bank with mostly 20 foot depths that by-passed the ship channel to downtown Belize City. Kashmir took the lead as we motored over flat water, a real change from the previous two weeks. We saw a couple of freighters anchored in the harbor waiting for smaller barges to off-load their cargo. Dockside depths are less than 10 feet, and all the commerce is either brought ashore or shipped out to the offshore ships by barge or small boat. This process gives employment to many of the city’s population, but it is certainly a time consuming and expensive proposition. As we were soon to discover, just about everything in Belize is very expensive.
The lighthouse marking the approach to downtown is a little hard to pick out until you are fairly close to the waterfront, at least during the day. There is one more high communications tower on the horizon than you will find either in the guides or on the charts, so it is a little confusing as to where to find the light amidst all the downtown sights. The harbor is wide open though, so we moved in close with little to fear, just keeping a good lookout as we always do when sailing.
We had been trying to reach the city dock master for about an hour prior to reaching the waterfront, but no one answered our calls. When we approached the docks two very large dive boats took up the entire transient dock space. As I brought Ocean Angel closer to the docks, the depths dropped off dramatically, and the winds, well of course, they decided to kick up to about 20 knots, right on call for our docking in tight quarters with thin water. Kashmir agreed to attempt an inside docking first as they had a bigger crew, and they only drew 4.5 feet where we draw 6.5. We watched them as they struggled to maneuver the boat in the tight quarters, and it appeared they had run aground on the inside. We could only see their mast as the dive boats blocked our view of the hull, but finally we heard them hail us telling us to bring the boat straight in around the bow of the dive boat, and hopefully, they could pull us into the inner basin.
Once again, the anticipation was far more exciting than the actual event. We came into the dock at about 3 knots, just enough speed for control in the high winds, but slow enough that I could stop in a heartbeat. The dock master had magically appeared; his radio was giving him trouble, but we later discovered that every dock master had trouble with his radio! Larry and Pat were right on hand, and we slid up to the dock, or maybe we mushed through the mud, not sure which, but we were snug to the pilings in short order. We would later be very thankful for those two monster dive boats protecting both of us from the waves that would be washing across the harbor colliding with the river’s outflow. The dock master told us we never could have stayed on the outside wall as the waves would likely have caused us damage.
In spite of the difficult docking situation, we took care of business, the water, the fuel, the laundry, and so on, then brought the scooter onto the dock and off we went.
If all you ever saw of Belize City was what you’re finding on this page, you might think it was one of the nicest cities you had ever come across, but, later in the day we decided to rent a cab, do a little shopping, and pick up our laundry along the way. Six of us, plus the scooter, and oh yes, the cab driver too.